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Hearing on damages suit

- Govt seeks compensation from pressure groups

Shillong, Dec. 3: A special court today held its first hearing on the damages suit filed by the Meghalaya government against pressure groups, demanding the implementation of the inner-line permit (ILP) in the state.

The government filed the suit in the special court of Rithelda Rymbai, seeking compensation of Rs 31,09,50,158 from the groups for the damages and loss of private property, both individual and community-owned, and government property caused during the ILP agitation. It also termed bandhs, road blockades and office picketing as “unconstitutional and illegal”.

Barring Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO) president Agnes Kharshiing and general secretary Evangelene Thabah, leaders of the 13 pressure groups, however, did not appear before the court.

Initially, 14 pressure groups demanded implementation of the permit regime under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 to check entry of outsiders into the state. However, CSWO withdrew from the conglomeration last week.

Kharshiing and Thabah, who deposed before the court, filed a petition seeking time from the court to submit their reply.

The leaders of the groups were summoned to appear in person or by a pleader to answer all questions relating to the suit and in default of their appearance, the suit will be heard and determined in their absence.

Under-secretary, political department, Borbah Khongwir, is representing the Meghalaya government, which is the complainant in the damage suit.

The defendants (pressure groups) comprise Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) president Daniel Khyriem and general secretary Auguster Jyrwa, Federation of Khasi Jaińtia and Garo People (FKJGP) president Joe Marwein and general secretary Wellbirth Rani, and Hynńiewtrep National Awakening Movement (HNYF) president Gretis Honourable Kharshanlor.

The others include All Jaińtia Youth Welfare Organisation (AJYWO) president M.H. Dkhar and general secretary B. Ryngkhlem, Ri Bhoi Youth Federation (RBYF) president Banbuhai Makdoh and general secretary L.K. Sawkmie, Khasi Women Welfare and Development Association (KWWADA) president Nebi Rapthap, and general secretary H. Kharbani.

Garo Students’ Union (GSU) president Tengsak G. Momin and general secretary John Miltu A. Sangma, Association for Democracy and Empowerment (ADE) president Jacklinbirth D. Sangma and general secretary Bivash R. Marak, A’chik Youth Welfare Organisation (AYWO) president Adison Ch. Momin and general secretary Sengmen N. Sangma, All India Garo Union (AIGU) president, Albert Marak and general secretary Wather M. Sangma are the other defendants.

Some notices issued to leaders of these groups were confirmed to have been received by them. While a majority of the notices are in the process of confirmation, a few notices were returned to the court as the leaders were not available in their residence.

Wrong names in suit

Interestingly, the government, in the damages suit, also named former leaders of some pressure groups, who had led the organisations in the past and organisations, which are not part of the ongoing ILP agitation.

Though Synjuk ki Seng Samla Shnong (SSSS) is not part of the ILP agitation, the names of its president R. Dkhar and general secretary Shanborlang Buhphang were included in the damages suit.

The government also mentioned incorrect names of the presidents of Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU) and Jaintia Youth Federation (JYF). JSU and JYF are part of the ILP agitation. While R.N. Parien is the president of JSU, P. Majaw is leading the JYF as president.

However, in the suit, the government mentioned Elnathan Pale as president of JSU and D.L. Rymbai as the president of JYF.

Federation for A’chik Freedom (FAF) is also a part of the agitation, but was not included in the suit.

The special court was set up by the Meghalaya High Court on the request of the state government with J. Marak, P.C. Das and R. Swer as special prosecutors.